No deaths reported in New Zealand earthquake

A powerful predawn earthquake struck New Zealand on
Saturday, causing water mains to break and some buildings to crumble.

By mid-morning Saturday, Cayman time,
there had been no immediate reports of deaths or major damage, emergency officials
said.

Roughly 100 people were being treated for minor
bumps and cuts, and two people suffered more serious injuries, hospital
officials said, just hours after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit near
Christchurch.

“The house felt like it was on wheels, like it
was rolling around on marbles,” resident Hadlee Wright told CNN’s
“Rick’s List.”

Pictures he took of the city before daybreak show
collapsed buildings and streets littered with bits of brick and rock.

The quake had a magnitude of 7.0, down from an initial assessment of
7.4, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It struck about 35 miles from
Christchurch, the country’s second-largest city, with a population of roughly
386,000 people.

An aftershock with a magnitude of 5.7 struck not
far from the epicenter about 20 minutes later, the survey said.

Power was out in the northwest part of the city,
while water and sewage services have been affected in several regions, the
Christchurch Civil Defense Group said in a statement. Some roads were also
damaged.

Michele Hider, a spokeswoman with Christchurch Hospital,
said the facility was treating two people with serious injuries.

A man in his 50s was hit by a falling chimney. He
is in serious condition, Hider said. Another man suffered serious injuries
after being cut by glass during the earthquake, she added.

Sebastian Koga, a neurosurgeon at the hospital,
said that as many as 100 people were being treated for minor scrapes and broken
bones but that he was not aware of any deaths.

“We’ve had a flood of lacerations and minor
head injuries, but nothing that could not be handled,” Koga said.

Tim Dower, a New Zealand journalist, said it’s
fortunate the earthquake struck during the night, when fewer people would have
been out and about.

“When one of this magnitude comes along,
people certainly feel it, particularly when it’s shallow,” he said.

There have been reports, he added, of walls and
buildings collapsing, cars damaged and flooding in homes.

A man who was at the international airport in Christchurch described the
scene.

“The entire terminal started shaking,” he
said. “I knew it was an earthquake. There was not much you could do at
that point.”

Authorities evacuated the airport, he said, adding
that he saw minor damage.

A person who answered the phone at the George hotel
in Christchurch said that “we are cleaning up at the present moment”
but declined to comment further.

Reinier Eulink, general manager of the Holiday Inn
in Christchurch, said there is damage around the hotel corridors and “big
cracks in the walls.”

“It was a big big long jolt, and the building
moved a lot,” he said. The 13-floor building, with about 150 rooms, was
about 40 percent occupied, and he estimated that 80 or more people were staying
at the hotel at the time.

Power was knocked out, but emergency power came on,
Eulink added. People were milling around in the hotel lobby, trying to get warm
during the chilly Southern Hemisphere winter.

The quake was 7.5 miles deep. It struck at 4:35
a.m. Saturday (12:35 p.m. ET Friday), the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

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